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ISLAMABAD: Request of Election Commission of Pakistan members for the provision of some additional perks in line with what the judges of the Islamabad High Court are offered, ended up in disclosure that the IHC judges are enjoying certain privileges beyond what the law sanctions them.

Informed sources said that the ECP members demanded the provision of certain perks and privileges while citing the example of the Islamabad High Court judges. However, when the matter was probed by the bureaucracy it was learnt that the IHC practices in regards to judges’ privileges are not in line with the law of the land.

Instead, it was found that the IHC judges are offered perks and privileges more than the judges of any other high court. The IHC, whose appointments have already been declared illegal by no less than the apex court of the country, had reportedly offered some additional privileges and facilities to its chief justice and all other judges in 2011.

The HIGH COURT JUDGES (LEAVE, PENSION AND PRIVILEGES) ORDER, 1997 provides for what the judges are offered. For example all high court judges are offered one official car but in the case of IHC judges they are provided two.

According to the relevant provision of the law, “A Judge shall be entitled to the use of an official car maintained at Government expense, but shall have to bear the cost of petrol used in the car during a month in excess of [four] 8 [five] hundred liters. (2) A car provided for the use of a Judge shall be used by him until he retires, subject to its replacement earlier, either because of its having completed the specified number of years of service or distance to be covered or of its having become unserviceable in accordance with the rules.”

However according to a 2011 “office order” of the IHC, issued under the signature of the then Registrar conveyed, “the competent authority has been pleased to fix the following privileges/facilities to be provided at Chief Justice House and at the residence of the Hon’ble judges of this Court from the date of assumption of charge of their offices:

1. One car with driver and maintenance and maximum 500 liters petrol per month – (Place of availability) Residence.

2. An Official Car with supply of petrol not exceeding 150 liters per month – At place of posting (President’s Order No.3 of 1997).

3. Maintenance of House- through PWD department.

4. Gunman and Guard – Residence.

5. Two Naib Qasid to Hon’ble Chief Justice and One Naib Qasid to Hon’ble Judges. (From contingency on daily wages basis as Semi Skilled Worker) – Residence.

6. Two Mali/Gardeners to Hon’ble Chief Justice and One Mali/Gardener to Hon’ble Judges. (From contingency on daily wages basis as Semi Skilled Worker) – Residence.

7. Two Sweepers to Hon’ble Chief Justice and One Sweeper
to Hon’ble Judges. (From contingency on monthly salary of Rs 4000/- as part time worker) – Residence.

8. One new split A/C 1.5 ton – Residence.

9. One new Generator alongwith consumed POL and requisite maintenance – Residence.

10. One new official telephone connection or reimbursement of private telephone already installed – Residence.

11. Reimbursement of Mobile cards charges – Upto 4000/- per month.

12. Medical Reimbursement charges including dependent family members.

13. Payment of utility bills and taxes through PWD department.

14. Reimbursement of Lawn and Garden maintenance charges (Rs 12000 per annum) and Rs 20000 one time during service for purchase of implements and tools – Residence.”

The sources said that the ECP members quoted the above “office order” to demand some additional perks. However, when the matter was discussed in the light of the IHC “office order”, it was found that certain perks and privileges offered are not in line with the relevant law.

Only weeks back, the apex court declared many appointments made in the IHC as illegal and observed, “The Chief Justice Islamabad High Court and/or the Administration Committee of Islamabad High Court have made appointments in the Establishment in complete disregard of the mandate given by the Rules framed under Article 208 of the Constitution.”

The SC added, “If the competent authority itself starts cherry picking by deliberately ignoring and overlooking meritorious candidates in appointment exercising powers under Rule 26 of the Lahore High Court or Rule 16 of the Islamabad High Court, then the image of the institution will be tainted beyond repair. Such practice may lead to distrust of the public in the judicial institution of the country. We could not allow denial of justice to those candidates who merit appointment nor could we encourage anyone to bypass transparent process of recruitment provided under the Rules.”

The SC in its order added, “We have noticed that the Chief Justice Islamabad High Court has exercised powers under Rule 26 of the Lahore High Court and under Rule 16 of the Islamabad High Court to alter the eligibility and qualification for appointment as well as promotion within the Establishment of Islamabad High Court. We hold that the Chief Justice has lost sight of the scheme of the Rules by appointing Respondents and others in the Establishment of Islamabad High Court.”

Following the same judgment, the lawyers’ fraternity has demanded of the CJ IHC to resign.

In early 2014, The News broke a story about the then Chief Justice Federal Shariat Court Justice Agha Rafiq Ahmad Khan who in a unique case in the country’s judicial history was found drawing both the pension and the salary of the office of the CJ FSC.

Under the constitution a judge of the superior judiciary is entitled to get pension only if he has completed five years of service but in Agha’s case he was not only getting it after just two years of service as CJ FSC but despite the fact that he continued to be CJ FSC and drew the salary of the post as well.